Addressing Flow Impediments


The goal of getting faster

One thing every organization wants is to get faster at delivering value. Something that is easier said than done.

Today we’re going to talk about what does it really take to become faster. And while there is no such thing as exact universal recipe, there are some very helpful things you can use.

First of all, of course, you need to know how fast you actually are. So, measure speed; there is a separate video where we discuss this.

Finding the root cause of delays

Second, once you figured out what your actual speed is, now is the time to search for root causes and try to address them. This is, however, usually an iterative process. It is unlikely that we will be able to perfectly identify the actual root causes at once and then just address them. Normally, it’s more complicated than that. You may have an idea of what might be the root cause of the problem, but you will only know once you started addressing it. And oftentimes you have to make adjustments, even reevaluate what you believe is the root cause and continue on, getting closer and closer to the real reason a bottleneck exists and successfully address it.

And there can be enormously broad spectrum of such root causes. Maybe you are slow because team members lack technical expertise in a specific domain. Or maybe you are slow because the quality of work products provided by a contractor team is low and leads to excessive rework. Or maybe you have excessive rework for a different reason: the requirements are defined without building proper customer empathy and the solution is not going to solve the customer problem and we will have rework to do. Or maybe, everything is fine with requirements and the real problem is that knowledge workers lack motivation and psychological safety. Or maybe the elephant in the room is poor architecture that makes everything chaotic and highly unpredictable, introduces lots of unnecessary complexity. See, the list keeps going on and on with ever new potential root causes. But it may be helpful to at least think of some general domains where those root causes may reside, such as: Process, Human Motivation, Expertise, Technology, Leadership, Customer Interaction.

It’s good to keep those in mind to open a conversation about root causes. And you may not arrive at the root cause at once; maybe what you think is the root cause, is only an effect of something else that IS a root cause.

Finally, taking action on addressing the root causes is never easy and almost always requires leadership support. It actually is one of the primary tasks of a Lean-Agile Leader to support the problem-solving process and help remove the impediments to a faster flow of value, because at the end of the day they are the only ones who can.

Taking action

Do you have an established process of identifying and removing impediments to flow of value? What would be a simple, concrete step to advance the problem-solving ability for you and your teams? That’s your important action item.         



Alex Yakyma

Alex Yakyma is the author of “Pursuing Enterprise Outcomes” and “The Rollout”. As a consultant, Alex is helping enterprises succeed with complex challenges. Throughout his career, he operated in multi-cultural, highly distributed environments. Alex has trained a large number of change agents and leaders whose key role is to help their organizations achieve higher effectiveness at pursuing business outcomes.

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